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Switzerland’s changing religious diversity. The National Congregations Study Switzerland II Jörg Stolz


This project conducts a second wave of the National Congregations Study (NCS) Switzerland to describe and help explain Switzerland’s changing religious diversity. The NCS Switzerland of 2009 was the first high-quality survey of a nationally representative sample of congregations (local religious groups) in a European country. It was also one of the flagship studies in NFP 58 (National Research Programme 58) and provided representative and hitherto unavailable information on a wide range of congregational attributes and activities across the religious spectrum.

Research questions

The new wave will enable us to answer the following two research questions:

  1. How has religious diversity changed in Switzerland over the last ten years?
  2. How can the diverse field of religious congregations (local religious groups) from all religious traditions in Switzerland be described in terms of a variety of activities and attributes?


We will reproduce and extend the first wave of the 2009 NCS Switzerland. We will first use a precise definition of 'congregation' to update the census, i.e. the complete list of all local religious groups in Switzerland. We will then take a random sample and interview one key informant per group about the observable characteristics of the congregation. The sample will comprise 1,100 respondents and will be stratified, with an over-representation of small religious traditions to allow meaningful comparisons between all traditions. An integrated file with the first wave will be created to enable longitudinal analysis. The average interview will last 60 minutes.

Expected results

The study will provide an initial picture of how the religious landscape, made up of local religious groups of all faiths, has changed in a European country over the space of ten years or so. Not only will we be able to describe the change, but we will also be able, to some extent, to use different theories of religious change and organisational sociology to explain it. While the NCS data allows researchers to describe change in a variety of dimensions, we will focus in particular on four types of change: namely, change in terms of:

  1. religious diversity of congregations in given regions, and its effects on congregations
  2. the growth and decline of congregations belonging to different religious traditions
  3. the relationship between established and new religions
  4. the representation of women among lay people, lay leaders and professional leaders.

Other findings will look at changes in worship styles, social activities, political activities, staffing, sub-groups, finances, social composition and expectations of congregational members and leaders.

Scientific and social significance

This will be the first replication of an NCS in a European country and, particularly as it will be the first longitudinal study at congregational level that includes minority religions, it will lead to results hitherto unavailable at this level. The results will also have a significant social impact, as journalists, politicians and leaders of religious groups will be able to use them to inform the assessments and decisions they make.

Research team

  • Jörg Stolz (Université de Lausanne)
  • Jeremy Senn (Université de Lausanne)
  • Christophe Monnot (Université de Strasbourg)

Important link

Project page on the SNSF website

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